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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 85 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Just read it - a few questions and my first impression  (Read 2138 times)
Rick Danger
Member

Posts: 6


« on: May 30, 2007, 01:43:54 PM »

First of all, allow me to congratulate John for his work (his first RPG?).
Agon was something I had been looking for and - when Diogo talked about it on our portuguese forum (www.abreojogo.com) - I just had to have it Smiley
After reading the book, I'm giving it two thumbs up: one for chosing a great setting and another for designing a competitive RPG.
I have a few gripes about the rules, but these lead up to my questions:

Flow of Play
From what I've read, I am not so sure on which way does the game lean to: the usual "party"-quest mode or a more "turn-based"-going-around-the-table-calling-scenes mode. Perhaps this depends entirely on the group's approach, being that the second option is the most competitive and the first is more easy-going.

Character Creation
Has the possibility of random character generation been considered? In very competitive groups, is it better to hide character creation so that the achievement rolls are not min-maxed ("I'll have my d10s where you have your d4s")? Regarding oaths, after the achievements phase, "each hero should have oaths with everyone else", but - as I understand it - a hero can win all his contests with a fair amount of luck and owe nothing to anyone, right? I suppose this unbalance is meant to generate conflict within the group right from the start?

Armor
I suppose that, for the sake of rules consistency, using armor as a creative ability for the defense roll could have been a possibility? This is more of a design question, but why was it necessary to use another way to roll the dice, by using a target number (4)? Armor had to be really good?

Battle
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John Harper
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flip you for real


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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2007, 05:11:13 PM »

Hi Rick!

Thanks for commenting on the game! I appreciate it. I don't have time to answer in detail right now, but I will soon. Just wanted you to know that I'm not ignoring you...
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Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!
Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2007, 10:58:53 PM »

Flow of Play
From what I've read, I am not so sure on which way does the game lean to: the usual "party"-quest mode or a more "turn-based"-going-around-the-table-calling-scenes mode. Perhaps this depends entirely on the group's approach, being that the second option is the most competitive and the first is more easy-going.

It's mostly the party quest format.
At any time that any hero gets in a conflict, all other players can choose to enter that conflict - even if they were previously described as being in a separate scene. (They just need to come up with an explanation for how they are are involved.)
Much of Agon's gameplay is built on the assumption that when players are in conflict, most or all of the other players are also in that conflict. The glory rules, for instance.

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Character Creation
Has the possibility of random character generation been considered? In very competitive groups, is it better to hide character creation so that the achievement rolls are not min-maxed ("I'll have my d10s where you have your d4s")?

There's nothing wrong with minimaxing here. Players are free to use the other player's weak abilities.

Quote
Regarding oaths, after the achievements phase, "each hero should have oaths with everyone else", but - as I understand it - a hero can win all his contests with a fair amount of luck and owe nothing to anyone, right? I suppose this unbalance is meant to generate conflict within the group right from the start?

Yes, it's possible that this can happen, and you're right about the reason (plus, it's a lesson in the game mechanics).

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Armor
I suppose that, for the sake of rules consistency, using armor as a creative ability for the defense roll could have been a possibility? This is more of a design question, but why was it necessary to use another way to roll the dice, by using a target number (4)? Armor had to be really good?
Remember that armour is impaired each time it successfully stops a blow, plus an attacker can spend victories from his attack to give a penalty to the armour roll. So, if armour starts high (d10) it is still uncertain, and it just gets more and more uncertain from there.
The fixed target number makes it much easier for players to see and judge how good their armour is currently.

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Battle
Regarding the turn structure, special maneuvers and powers, why do NPCs get to use powers between exchanges, while the heros have to renounce their attack to use a special maneuver? Couldn’t all of this happen in the “break” phase and call it something else?
NPCs can also use spend their attacks to use special manoeuvres. The special abilities that NPCs have serve a specific purpose: to make those NPCs special, and also to allow GMs to challenge players without needing too many NPCs on the board at the same time.
PCs also have their own area of specialness (Heroic Abilities, Oaths, probably more Divine Favour than their enemies, Fate).

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I hope to try the game out as soon as possible, but, as you can see, I may have a problem with its consistency. For example, Divine Favor introduces yet another thing or two to do with the dice (altough open-dice are always cool); actions for the Interludes could have worked all in a similar way, but Sacrifice doesn’t; the rules just seem to be going up all over the place.

I respect the work done by the author and the playtesters, so I don’t really want to start house-ruling everything. I was hoping I could be convinced on the merits of the rules as they are.

There are a lot of special cases as you point out, but they each have their place and serve a good purpose.
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Rick Danger
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2007, 03:23:58 AM »

Thank you John for reading and thank you Darren for the in-depth reply.
I'm sure that each design decision has its own reason and purpose, I'm just questioning its overall consistency. A well-integrated set of rules is not only easier to play, but, in a competitive game, it allows for strategy and tactics to come to the fore rather than greater or lesser rules knowledge.

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It's mostly the party quest format.
At any time that any hero gets in a conflict, all other players can choose to enter that conflict - even if they were previously described as being in a separate scene.
Yes, but a clever player does not want for glory to be left only to the roll of the dice. If possible, he will try to "call" scenes where his abilities stand out from the party or - even beter - he will try to win a conflict that gives him the advantage of being alone in a scene of his chosing, preferably one that gives him an exclusive advantage for the next important scene. If all players act in this manner, the game is more competitive and the "party mode" is less frequent.

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There's nothing wrong with minimaxing here. Players are free to use the other player's weak abilities.
Of course there is nothing wrong with minmaxing, but character creation will not end as long as competitive players keep adjusting their stronger abilities according to the other's weaker ones. Are you going to let me have my d10 where you have your d4? As long as you can see my sheet and I can see yours, we'll just "chase" each other's abilities ad infinitum, all in good competitive fun. This could be addressed with random/hidden character generation.

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Remember that armour is impaired each time it successfully stops a blow, plus an attacker can spend victories from his attack to give a penalty to the armour roll.
Using a creative ability also impairs the relevant dice, so the example I gave could also work? What bothers me is creating a whole other set of variables just for armor, so much that you end up with two similar ways of indicating the same exhaustion of this resource: the level of its impairment and the accumulated penalties to a roll against a target number.

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The special abilities that NPCs have serve a specific purpose: to make those NPCs special, and also to allow GMs to challenge players without needing too many NPCs on the board at the same time. PCs also have their own area of specialness (Heroic Abilities, Oaths, probably more Divine Favour than their enemies, Fate).
Special abilities are great and indeed necessary. I'm just saying that instead of having them in "between exchanges", "break phase" and "instead of attacking" it may be possible to put them all into the break phase and call it something else.

Quote
There are a lot of special cases as you point out, but they each have their place and serve a good purpose.
Regarding what I've said in the beginning, I also understand that, on the other hand, it's good for a game to have some "special cases", because there is the risk of an RPG being so consistent that someone only needs to read it once or twice and never have to pick up the book ever again. For the author, this may indicate that a corebook has more value if it still needs to be referenced to during game sessions. For experienced players, if the RPG could be summarized in a single sheet of paper, why buy it anyway?

Of course, this would be for another thread. Let's talk Agon!
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Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2007, 06:45:41 AM »

I'm sure that each design decision has its own reason and purpose, I'm just questioning its overall consistency. A well-integrated set of rules is not only easier to play, but, in a competitive game, it allows for strategy and tactics to come to the fore rather than greater or lesser rules knowledge.

Agon allows for quite a bit of that kind of strategy, by the way.
I too prefer consistent rulesets, as a rule. However, the one-rule-fits-all approach isn't always the best one. For Agon, it happens to be the case that in those places where the rules breaks away from its core mechanic, it's because it makes it better than not doing so.
Now, you could try to strip all those variations out and use the core mechanic for everything, but I think your game will be poorer for it - and it'll be a lot of work, considering how many there are!
I know it's the standard forge refrain - try the game as its written first, and then see if it really needs changing. If bits of it do, you'll be better prepared to know what needs fixing.

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It's mostly the party quest format.
At any time that any hero gets in a conflict, all other players can choose to enter that conflict - even if they were previously described as being in a separate scene.
Yes, but a clever player does not want for glory to be left only to the roll of the dice. If possible, he will try to "call" scenes where his abilities stand out from the party or - even beter - he will try to win a conflict that gives him the advantage of being alone in a scene of his chosing, preferably one that gives him an exclusive advantage for the next important scene. If all players act in this manner, the game is more competitive and the "party mode" is less frequent.

Actually, for most conflict rules, a player gets less glory unless other players join in. Glory works like this: You get 1 glory for succeeding a task, and the highest rolling player gets extra glory based on the challenge.
If only one player is rolling in a conflict, there is no other player to compete with, so he can only get the 1 glory for succeeded.
Thus, even a conflict isn't your best one, there's still an incentive for you to join in. (Or I suppose you could stay out of all conflicts where you aren't the best in an attempt to deny other players the glory they'd get for competing: but for that to work, everyone needs to do it all the time, and then the rate of glory advancement will grind to a halt.)

Trust me on this: the standard agon conflict rolls are random enough that those who are best will lose often enough, and those that are worst will occasionally win (if only thanks to lucking out with opportunities to spend divine favour on rollups. Statistics - and my personal experience - tells us that this will happen often enough to be a significant element of play).
Plus much of the glory comes from battles, rather than standard conflict rolls, and players need to work together to win them. And in any case, if players aren't working together on battles, they aren't maximising their glory. Here's why:
For each NPC, players get a glory award equal to its strife divided among the players. Plus, each player gets glory equal to the highest wound he personally inflicted (which is 1-6). This is often the most significant part of the glory, since if you have 4 players, someone is going to get 6 points from defeating it, and others might get 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1, depending on the blkows they inflicted.
So a four-player group could harvest up to an extra 18 glory between them from an opponent.
On the other hand, if each player goes off and faces a single opponent on their own, not only are they making it harder for themselves, they can only get the glory for the last wound box they inflict - all those earlier boxes aren't giving anyone glory.
The GM's strife budget only allows a certain number of opponents to be encountered - so by splitting up players are reducing the number of opponents they will each face, and probably reducing the overall glory in the game.

And there's another point: battles with NPCs are interesting in agon for this reason. In other games with death spirals, there comes a time during a combat when you know one side is going to win or lose, and it's just a matter of playing it out to the end to see if any surprisies crop up. In Agon, because of the way players get glory from wound effects, a new strategy emerges at this point: players start competing with each other to inflict the higher scoring wound boxes.
So, an agon battle looks like this: at the start, players work together, trying to dfeeat their opponents. At some point, they realise they are going to win - in any other game, the rest of the fight would be boring, but in agon, the players still have an interesting conflict - their opponent is now the arena in which the players compete against each other.

[The following couple of paragraphs I wrote before I understood what you were really asking, and I wrote the above to replace them - but they include a couple of important points so I've left them here]
Players can split up and do their own thing, but at any moment, one of them will get involved in a conflict. At that moment, by the rules, every other player can choose to get their character involved in that conflict. So, the group immediately becomes a team once again. They might immediately split up again (and some may not join in in some conflicts), so if the players are determined to have their characters act separately, the game will be a turn-based one part of the time, and a team-based on the rest of the time.
But I believe John has said that he runs the game exclusively as a team-based game, and I've seen more than one person report that the game doesn't work so well when the players go off and do their own thing, and this makes sense to me.
First, the battle system pretty much expects players to be fighting alongside each other. If PCs try to take on opponents on their lonesome, they'll have it tough, plus the GMs strife budget will be spent a lot quicker than intended. Then there's oaths - which work best if players are fighting alongside each other.

By the way, players can use oaths to 'force' allies to help them. So if you get into a conflict where your rival player is better than you, but he owes you an oath or two, you can get him to help you. You might not win, but he'll end up with an impairment or two - which makes it possible for you to do better than him later. Managing oath strategy is a big part of being a successful competitive agon player.

Quote
There's nothing wrong with minimaxing here. Players are free to use the other player's weak abilities.
Of course there is nothing wrong with minmaxing, but character creation will not end as long as competitive players keep adjusting their stronger abilities according to the other's weaker ones. Are you going to let me have my d10 where you have your d4? As long as you can see my sheet and I can see yours, we'll just "chase" each other's abilities ad infinitum, all in good competitive fun. This could be addressed with random/hidden character generation.[/quote]

That sounds like one of those fears GMs have that doesn't actually occur in play. Even if it does, any GM worth his salt should be able to say, "Guys, assigning your abilities should only take five minutes tops. Can we finish now?"
The only time players will be minimaxing their abilities - with respect to each other - is during the achievements phase, and at that point, the characters abilities are already set. When I said player-v-player minimaxing was okay, I thought you were referring to the achievements phase.

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Remember that armour is impaired each time it successfully stops a blow, plus an attacker can spend victories from his attack to give a penalty to the armour roll.
Using a creative ability also impairs the relevant dice, so the example I gave could also work? What bothers me is creating a whole other set of variables just for armor, so much that you end up with two similar ways of indicating the same exhaustion of this resource: the level of its impairment and the accumulated penalties to a roll against a target number.[/quote]

I can say quite categorically that treating armour as a creative ability will not work.
Creative abilities are inherently unreliable, and if players are forced to use the creative ability rules for their armour, they'll stop using it - because it's just not worth it for the penalties that wearing armour gives.
The good thing about armour (especially at the d8 and d10 level) is that you have a very good chance of stopping any single blow that lands - so using armour is a strategic choice. If someone hits your with a 4 victory blow (which takes at the minimum an attack roll of 13, with the worst possible defence roll), you can still stop that blow with an armour roll of 4+. This means the attacker has an interesting tactical choice: does he reduce the damage to make the armour roll harder, or leave it as is and hope it gets through.
Armour works on a completely different set of probabilities to the creative ability roll system, so it doesn't make sense to use armour as a creative ability at all. (Think about how hard it would be to stop that 13+ attack with a creative ability...)

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The special abilities that NPCs have serve a specific purpose: to make those NPCs special, and also to allow GMs to challenge players without needing too many NPCs on the board at the same time. PCs also have their own area of specialness (Heroic Abilities, Oaths, probably more Divine Favour than their enemies, Fate).
Special abilities are great and indeed necessary. I'm just saying that instead of having them in "between exchanges", "break phase" and "instead of attacking" it may be possible to put them all into the break phase and call it something else.

If you want to do that, more power to you. I don't recommend it. I think you'd end up making things more complicated in an attempt to make things more simple. If you want to work within the turn structure of agon, I think these things have to be the way they are.
It's possible I'm misunderstanding exactly what you do intend, so if you can give a specific example of a change you'd make, I'm willing to discuss it.
I should point out: I'm the last person to defend a system just because that's the way it's written. I change rulesets all the time, to my players occasional dismay Smiley, so if you come up with an improvement to one of Agon's rules, I'm all ears. But I have to be honest and say that I don't think it's needed.
(In the interests of full disclosure: I don't think Agon is perfect. The one Agon rule I'd change for my own taste is the Creative Abilities rule - if I could figure out a way to do it that didn't give me as many headaches as the official rule!, and that's been discussed on the forum many times before.)

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There are a lot of special cases as you point out, but they each have their place and serve a good purpose.
Regarding what I've said in the beginning, I also understand that, on the other hand, it's good for a game to have some "special cases", because there is the risk of an RPG being so consistent that someone only needs to read it once or twice and never have to pick up the book ever again. For the author, this may indicate that a corebook has more value if it still needs to be referenced to during game sessions. For experienced players, if the RPG could be summarized in a single sheet of paper, why buy it anyway?

Of course, this would be for another thread. Let's talk Agon!

If you're arguing that Agon has a number of special case rules just to make the game more interesting and harder to remember, frankly I think that's daft. Even complex games like GURPS don't create extra rules just to have extra rules - they create them because the game author sees a need for them.
By the way, after playing Agon a few times, the various special cases are pretty easy to remember - you realise there aren't anywhere near as many as in a more traditional game like HERO or D&D, it just has more than the average forge game I suppose.
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Rick Danger
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2007, 10:02:43 AM »

Thanks again, Darren.
I realize that my inital post complicates things up to a point where we're discussing rules interpretation, playtesting experiences and design options all at the same time. As I've said earlier, I recognize I should try the game as it is before pointing out possible changes.

I apreciate your explanation on how glory/oaths reward a certain flow of play. I also understand that, according to your intepretation, a player cannot call out for a contest in which he wants to win the possibility of getting a scene all to himself, because the rules state that "every other player can choose to get their character involved" and that is unchangeable.

Regarding armor, I realize that following a mechanic that only improves the defense roll is not as powerfull as the "4+ we're fine" rule, but I will need to try it out to see if it's so bad that it makes armor unwearable.

Regarding minmaxing during character creation, the game states that the GM is a player like every one else and that the rules are there to provide a level playing field in which nobody has to be pulling any punches. Even so, in accordance to your reply, we may accept that when we say "competitive" it's not supposed to be that competitive, not so much that it starts right up from character creation.

Regarding the battle turn structure, I'm saying that there is exchanges and there is something else which is called the break phase. Breaks are already between exchanges, so the rules could use this phase instead of atributing NPC powers "between exchanges". This would be a minor thing, but I was also sugesting that the player's special abilities that replace his attack roll could instead be used during this break phase, much like the NPCs can use their powers without sacrificing an attack. I understand that you replied stating that PCs and NPCs each have their own way of being special, but I have some doubts wether they have to be handled so differently rules-wise.
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